The Great Chronological Slasher Franchise Project

Incredible art by Chris Labrenz

Last year I found myself in a strange place heading into the Halloween season, which for me usually starts sometime in September. In years past, I’d written posts about various movies and franchises for the dearly departed Topless Robot/Robot’s Voice site. I loved poring over these films, taking notes and then figuring out the best way to present them to an audience.

Oh do go on

Halloween Scene: Scream Season One (2015)

scream the series

I didn’t think much of the announcement that Scream would continue as an MTV series. I’m not as big a fan of the first movie as I thought I was and even if I was I could always go back and watch that. I’m not the kind of person who gets bent out of shape about the mere existence of remakes and reboots.

But, I was curious to see if this new version of Scream was any good, so I watched the first episode on On Demand a few episodes into the season and was instantly hooked. This wasn’t necessarily groundbreaking entertainment, but it had plenty of mystery, surprisingly gory kills and a cast of characters I actually found myself liking (partially because many of them reminded me of older actors I already like).

The basic plot of the show is that high school student Emma finds herself in the middle of a series of murders that lead to plenty of discovers about her friends and family members. Like any good slasher, you’re not quite sure who to trust because the show is packed with shifty characters with something to hide. As the 10 episodes progress, names start falling off the suspect list — mostly because they get killed — but you’re still not quite sure who it could be or why (though I did figure it out about three episodes before the finale or so).

One of the more interesting aspects of the show is that it unfolds fairly naturally. Instead of front-loading everything with the kind of information you don’t necessarily need right off the bat (like that Brooke and Jake actually have an interesting and complicated relationship that goes back years), those details are revealed as needed. In a world where horror movies feel the need to info dump like crazy in the first 20 minutes, this was a nice change. Relationships and their intricacies should be revealed over time, not all at once for the audience’s absorption.

I should probably note at this point that the only horror shows I’ve ever watched with any consistency are Tales From The Crypt as a kid and Dexter. Overall, I enjoyed the experience and, even though I agreed with the kid who looks like a Topher Grace clone that a slasher probably couldn’t sustain a show, I was impressed with the engine driving the series. scream the series cast

So, what about the finale reveal of the killer’s identity? I have to say that I called it a few episodes out from the end. Let’s call this SPOILER TERRITORY, though I won’t say specifically who was involved. Based on what I’d seen, I was fairly certain that none of the kids were slicing up the townspeople because of what we’d seen and the way they acted (unless the writers decided to cheat the ending, which I was a bit worried about). Because of that, I assumed the bad guy was probably one of the older characters, but even that list continued getting narrowed down.

Want to hear some of the more outlandish theories that popped into my head? At one point I wondered if the sheriff was actually Brandon James. At another, I wondered if the mom was actually testing Emma to see if she was worthy of their weird family. There was also one about the roguish, often-disappearing Kieran, maybe that he was also the son of Brandon James, but that would have made everything with Emma ultra weird.

All in all I’ve had a great time watching this new take on Scream. I liked the films when they first came out, but never fell hard for them like I did earlier franchises or even Final Destination, but there’s plenty of building blocks to work with (masked killer, voice changer, unknown killer(s?), teen antics) to play with and make something brand new. I’m not sure if I want to fill my viewing time up with horror shows — it can be a lot watching hours and hours of murders/investigations/scares instead of just 90 minutes — but  I enjoyed this experience and will be back next season to see what happens.

Revisiting Scream 3 (2000) & Iron Man 2 (2010)

Sequels are funny things. Like a lot of people who think about movies way too much, I tend to judge them pretty harshly. Do they hold up to the original? Are they better? Does this story make sense? Is it necessary? The real question should simply be, is it any good? Was it entertaining? Did I like it? Upon re-watching a pair of sequels recently, I feel like I’m either becoming a nicer viewer or (hopefully) less judgmental. I think there’s also something to be said for experience with a story making it easier to digest even if there are elements that you find bothersome. You know they’re they, you see them coming and you adjust your viewing as necessary.

That actually wasn’t the case with Scream 3, which I watched towards the end of last week. The first and only other time I saw this movie was in the theaters when it came out in 2000. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Scream series (you can read my review of the first one here), but they were gigantic to the horror community that I was just getting into as they came out. I remember liking the third installment, thinking that the filmmakers were really playing with the genre and having fun with it. I mean, it’s not a flat out comedy by any means, but I remember feeling a sense of winking towards the audience, especially in the scene where the killer throws a knife at Dewey and the handle smacks him in the head. That bit still made me laugh.

But, I wasn’t seeing or noticing the humor as much this time around. Yes, I was working and it was kind of on in the background while I was doing other things, but it just wasn’t as prevalent. I still liked the movie and think it’s pretty good, but there were two aspects that got on my nerves. First off, and I know I liked this at the time, but the Jay and Silent Bob cameos are just super weird and kind of pointless. I’m saying this as someone who loves those characters, those movies and Smith in general, but they really took me out of the movie. But, they weren’t nearly as bad as that ridiculous voice modulator thing that so much of the movie depends on. Does that kind of thing even exist? I feel like if it did, there would be an app. Anyway, I get the idea that it makes everyone you’re not seeing directly in front of you suspect, but it gets to the point where you as a viewer can’t trust anyone and just become more and more disconnected. It also made me far more aware of off-screen dialog which took me out of the store even more. Without that aspect, the movie would actually be pretty damn solid. I don’t even mind the retconning stuff because I think it fits in pretty well and all makes sense. Plus, it’s another not to old horror movies, though this one far more unsettling. With that, I’ve watched the first and third movies in the past few years and just need to rewatch 2 and see 4 for the first time. I’ve heard good things.

After writing up a piece about Iron Man 3 for Spinoff, I remembered that 2 was on Netflix Instant and gave it another watch. I honestly didn’t remember many of my opinions about the movie from the first time I saw it other than a deep desire to punch Justin Hammer in the face. After going back and re-reading my original review of the film, it turns out that that same elements spoke to me both times. I liked it, it’s a big fun action movie. The performances are great. I didn’t like Sam Jackson that time around, but none of that stuff bothered me this time. And, while I still despise Justin Hammer as a character and think he came off kind of cartoony, I don’t think Sam Rockwell’s portrayal of him is all that far from people like him in the real world.

It’s actually kind of funny that I remembered most of the scenes of the movie, but couldn’t remember how I felt about them. There were bits I forgot, like Tony Stark’s dad as a kind of Walt Disney character. I’m actually listening to a book about Pixar right now that got into some of the “I’ve got these ideas, but haven’t developed the technology just yet, maybe they will n the future” ideas that were directly stated in this film. It’s interesting how the things you’re reading/watching/listening to can inadvertently segue into one another.

Anyway, I’ve found that repeated viewings of the first Iron Man tend to leave me a little flat. I still like all the character stuff they did and Robert Downey Jr. makes an awesome Tony Stark, but the ending definitely has diminishing returns. I understand that they wanted to show that Tony Stark could perservere over a larger, more powerful oponent, but that battle is just boring the third or fourth time around. Similarly, the one between Iron Man, War Machine and Mickey Rourke at the end of this one’s a bit lame. You get that awesome sequence with them taking on the drones and then you finish up with Tony and Rhodey aiming blasters at the Ruskie and he explodes? Eh. These things are great the first time around, but don’t always make for the best repeated viewings which is what I want from my movies. Still, it’s a movie packed with fun and shows just one small aspect of how cool an Avengers movie can and hopefully will be.